14:53 PM

CAP Hot Air Balloon Makes N.Y. Festival Debut

After 25 years of support for the Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally in Broome County, New York, this year the New York Wing’s South Central Group brought in a Civil Air Patrol hot air balloon for the first time.

“It took a lot of emails and phone calls, some fundraising and lots of paperwork,” said Maj. Frank Birt, South Central Group commander. “The smiles on the cadets’ faces made it all worth it.”

For years CAP members have provided safety at the festival site, Binghamton’s Otsiningo Park, as the hot air balloons take off. This summer, cadets were able to take off themselves on orientation flights in the CAP balloon.

First Lt. Mike Gallant, a member of the Indiana Wing’s Bakalar Composite Squadron, drove 12 hours with the CAP hot air balloon in tow to arrive just in time for the festival’s start. About 15 members were able to take a tethered ride in the balloon that evening.

Two flights followed the next day. A pair of young members from the Broome Tioga Composite Squadron, Cadet Tech. Sgt. Daniel Martone and Cadet Airman 1st Class Courtney Martone, rode that morning. The evening flight went to State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Cadet Birt of the Broome Tioga unit, cadet commander for the activity.

“That was awesome, Cadet Tech. Sgt. Martone said, adding that he found it “a little bit nerve-racking flying over the highway.”

Lupardo said she “was thrilled to take my first balloon ride at Spiedie Fest with the Civil Air Patrol. I’d like to thank the South Central Group for the many services they provide to Spiedie Fest and for the contribution they make to cadet education and emergency response.” The assemblywoman belongs to the New York Wing’s Legislative Squadron.

CAP also maintained a recruiting booth for the three-day festival, which drew more than 100,000 visitors.